The role of shade tree pruning in cocoa agroforestry systems: agronomic and economic benefts

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Springer Nature
Cocoa-based agroforests are promoted to replace monocultures for the provision of ecosystem services. However, shade tree pruning, an important tool to sustain cocoa yields, is not commonly implemented. This study investigates the effect of pruning on both agronomic and economic performance. In Bolivia, four famers’ sites were divided in half, and shade trees pruned in one of the two plots. Pruning resulted in a significant increase in cocoa yield, from an average of 430 to 710 kg ha−1 by boosting flowering and pod production, but not reducing the proportion of damaged pods, and of those lost to cherelle wilt. Additionally, scenario calculations using international and organic premium cocoa prices were conducted to evaluate the economic feasibility of pruning. The minimum, mean and maximum yield of 22 local cocoa-based agroforestry farms were used as reference for 25, 50 and 75% yield increase scenarios. Offsetting the pruning costs highly depended on the initial yield levels. Using the minimum yield, all scenarios led to a lower net income compared with no pruning. For the mean yield level, the net income was equal to that obtained without pruning when the yield increase was above 51%. At the maximum yield level, all increase scenarios resulted in a higher net income. Our results prove the importance of pruning agroforestry trees to increase cocoa yields. However, with current farm-gate prices for cocoa, farmers alone cannot cover the extra management costs. The cocoa sector should discuss different strategies to support pruning for a broader adoption of agroforests.
© The Author(s) 2022. This article is published with open access at and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License - . The Version of Scholarly Record of this Article is published in Agroforestry Systems, 2023, available online at: . Keywords: canopy closure; flowering; yield; pest and disease; income.
Esche, L., Schneider, M., Milz, J., & Armengot, L. (2023). The role of shade tree pruning in cocoa agroforestry systems: agronomic and economic benefits. Agroforestry Systems, 97, 175–185.